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Iron Bowl Breakdown: Auburn Offense

John Reed - USA Today Sports

“We should have put up 60 on them.”

Those words have been echoed around all talks of the Iron Bowl over the last 12 months. Alabama fans say that there was no way Auburn could put up 60 points against an Alabama defense while Auburn fans get angry at the fact that they were so close to those 60 points but still managed to lose.

The truth is Auburn’s offense dominated the majority of that game. From a coach’s viewpoint, it had to have been frustrating to see your team not score 60 points. However, four field goals inside the red zone and a bad defensive performance will lead to a loss more often that not. It is possible that Auburn should have scored 60 points. But they did not. That’s what happened in the Iron Bowl last year in Tuscaloosa.

This year could be a completely different story. The two teams strengths this season have been on the defensive side of the ball while both offenses have had their share of inconsistencies. Everyone has seen how good the Alabama defense is and many people know of the struggles that Jeremy Johnson and the Tigers’ offense have had. So, as one would expect, the Crimson Tide are expected to have a fairly dominant performance on Saturday afternoon.

However, we all know that rivalries rarely work as they are expected to go. In 2009, Nick Saban’s squad was the best team in the country and a pretty big favorite against a 7-4 Auburn team at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It took a late Roy Upchurch touchdown for the favorites to win that games. The 2011 Auburn team may be most comparable to this season’s team.

In 2011, the Tigers struggled to find a consistent quarterback, starting three different players at that position over the course of the season. The passing game only managed 160 yards per game, 25 yards per game less than the rushing game (the same difference of the 2015 offense). The rushing game was a committee of backs – three main rushers in each season. That offense, under Gus Malzahn, also went up against one of the strongest defenses in recent history and only scored 14 points, while averaging 2.2 yards per rush and 3.1 yards per pass.

The 2015 Auburn offense is led by running back Peyton Barber. The sophomore is the team’s leading rusher and has 13 touchdowns on the season. Barber has 1,025 yards from scrimmage this season but averaging just 4.5 yards per touch. Junior running back Jovon Robinson is second on the team in touches. After coming into the season with plenty of hype, the JUCO transfer hasn’t gotten the amount of carries that many expected but his 6.1 yards per carry has made a big impact on the team.

Senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis may be the Tigers’ biggest threat for an explosive play. He is second on the team in total yards from scrimmage, being used in both the passing and rushing attacks. Louis has 15.3 yards per receptions and has three touchdowns through the air so far this season, both career highs. He also has 24 carries so far, which is the most he’s ever had in one season. However, he has a career low in rushing yards and only averages 5.8 yards per rush.

The quarterback situation has been the story of the year for the Tigers and it will continue to be this weekend. Jeremy Johnson has shown some improvement from the first three weeks of the season but he still has the higher passer rating of the two main options. Sean White has thrown fewer passes but has 200 more passing yards. Johnson has 13 total touchdowns on the season (8 passing, 5 rushing) while White has just one. Jason Smith could also see playing time if the game goes south very quickly for Auburn. I expect that Jeremy Johnson will be the choice this Saturday which could cause trouble for the Crimson Tide defense. It’s a stretch but with Johnson’s big arm and power running ability, he seems to be a poor man’s Cardale Jones.

Don’t expect too much out of this offense on Saturday going up against this defense but they could do just enough to keep them in the game. Without the big play ability that they’ve had in the past and the lack of red zone execution that has be shown, it is tough to see what strength that hold over any of the defensive groups of Alabama.

Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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